Carles Alena spares Barcelona's blushes in Copa del Rey draw
Copa del Rey, Estadio Jose Rico Perez - Herules 1 (Mainz 52') Barcelona 1 (Alena 58')
Carles Alena spared Barcelona’s blushes, finding the net with a long-range strike to salvage a 1-1 Copa del Rey draw away to third tier Hercules.
The Spanish champions struggled for much of the match, with David Mainz giving the hosts a surprise lead after 52 minutes, making the most of some slack Barcelona defender to bundle home a cross at the back post.
Alena struck an equaliser from the best part of 25 yards not long after to restore parity, and that’s the way it stayed as Barcelona settled for an away goal to take back to the Camp Nou for the second leg.
Luis Enrique rested a number of key players ahead of the weekend's Clasico against Real Madrid, with Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez all left out. They will back in the starting lineup on Saturday as the Catalans face a make or break fixture.
TALKING POINT - Is Paco Alcacer doomed at Barcelona?
Enrique’s hope would have been that against third tier opposition, playing as the focal point of the attack, Paco Alcacer would get himself off the mark for Barcelona. But the striker, who made the move to the Camp Nou from Valencia in the summer, struggled to impose himself on the game. He was barely involved, and so it’s questionable that if he plays so poorly against a team like Hercules who will he play well against? Is he doomed at Barcelona?
MAN OF THE MATCH - Carles Alena
There has been buzz about Alena in Spanish footballing circles this season and he backed up the hype with a wonderful equalising strike. The goal came at a crucial time for Barcelona, just after Hercules had taken a shock lead, with the youngster the best away player on the pitch. Enrique will surely give him another run-out in the second leg.
32’ CHANCE FOR HERCULES! Barcelona were caught out at the back on the counter attack, with Gaspar taking the shot inside the box. But Umtiti was there to make the block.
43’ FREE HEADER! That was an opportunity for the home side to edge ahead before the half time break. There was a free header, but the Hercules player could only glance it wide.
47’ BIG CALL! Gaspar goes down inside the Barcelona area, or at least he thinks it was in the area. In the end the referee awards a freekick on the edge of the box rather than a penalty.
48’ CILLESSEN MAKES THE SAVE! Gaspar takes the freekick from the edge of the box and gets it through the wall. The Barcelona goalkeeper gets down low to make the save
53’ GOAL! Hercules 1-0 Barcelona: The third tier side have the lead against Barcelona! The Catalans failed to deal with a cross and Mainz was on hand at the back post to bundle it home.
58’ GOAL! Hercules 1-1 Barcelona: What a way to score an equaliser! Alena smashed one at goal from the best part of 25 yards and finds the bottom corner of the Hercules net. Good strike.
62’ CHANCE FOR BARCELONA! Digne takes a shot at the Hercules goal, with the deflected effort almost finding its way to Vidal at the back post. It's cleared before it reaches him, though.
63’ DIGNE VOLLEY! That was almost an exceptional goal from the Barcelona left back. He caught the ball on the full volley, but sends it across the face of goal and wide of the target.
77’ TAME BY TURAN! The Turkish international really should have done better with that opportunity. The ball came to him at the back post after an effort by Alcacer, but his shot was tame.
For the second season in a row, Barcelona began their Copa del Rey campaign with a draw against a third tier team.
Carles Alena scored his first goal for Barcelona in only his second appearance, while Paco Alcacer is still waiting for his first Barcelona goal.